High-level handy hints for planning tender response success

Large tenders require significant time, effort, specialist resourcing and commitment to developing compelling differentiation, so here is a simple list of reminders to help make your major tender responses more successful.

  1. Understand the tender’s needs and the underlying (often non-stated) issues that must be addressed and formally plan and schedule your response resources
  2. Assemble the right skills, methodology, budget and sponsorship
  3. Ensure your solution offers unique benefits that will be valued by your client
  4. Develop and agree your solution’s key messages and benefits
  5. Make sure that all your team members understand the overall solution and how specific key messages are to be recognised in their individual responses
  6. Answer all questions and in the order that they are asked cognisant of any response format and size limitations
  7. Plan and outline the aligned content of each response to match your solution before writing the detailed content, and plan the use of specialised graphics – write less but say more
  8. Do not paste in large slabs of standard content unless it is truly generic and keep it to a minimum
  9. Write your responses professionally and in a compelling style – tell a story and talk about benefits not just features
  10. Iteratively draft and review formally all the way – don’t wait unto the end.

If this sounds too daunting, call Mijo Tenders for some friendly advice.

How to get your response started effectively

While regular tender responses are key for sustaining the financial success of many of our clients, too many of them struggle to get each response started effectively and so end up in a mad rush at the end.

Evidence of this is recognising that many tender response strategies and solutions are not fully understood and absorbed by a lot of the team members until 70% of the way through the project. This means that each response is not as comprehensive as it should be. The result is that considerable time is required to rework responses that could have been written correctly in the first place. Worse, many inconsistencies and opportunities for effective story-telling are missed.

Part of the reason for this is that too often we focus on the task and not the outcome, i.e. team members are keen to contribute by completing their assigned writing tasks (by putting lots of words on many pages) versus ensuring that the team delivers a concise, compelling and unified solution that will wow the tender issuer and through writing less but saying more.

Further, planning sessions, strategizing meetings and team meetings are often seen as time wasted that could have been put to writing more responses. Complicating this, the submission deadline often seems a long way away and so no real sense of urgency is yet evident across the team.

Part of the solution to these problems is to have a detailed project delivery time plan that allocates reasonable time at the front and uses it effectively through appropriate thinking, planning and strategy sessions. These selectively embrace the full team membership and progressively map and identify how the chosen solution effects each individual response deliverable as part of assuring a full end to end solution.

Rather than race out and start writing, there is further benefit in more thinking by planning the structure of each response’s content, crafting the opening paragraphs of each response’s headings, and having these reviewed for consistency, coverage and alignment before commencing writing. Patience.

This apparent delayed start builds a unified solution across every deliverable while giving the wider team more time to absorb the solution and to understand their areas specific contributions and obligations. This considered approach is an investment. It enhances getting it right the first-time for everyone and so improves quality and reduces re-work at the back-end of the time allocation.

Think, plan, solve, map, write, review.

Like to know more – call Mijo Tenders for some friendly advice.

Staying on topic

A couple of the major tenets in tender responses are to:

  1. Answer every tender question
  2. Answer every tender question fully.

This can often result in your subject matter experts thinking that more is better in terms of both the number of words and the breadth of their responses.

While both tenets are correctly focussed on ensuring a compliant response, providing too much can be distracting to your client resulting in a negative score of your response.

Tender writing is a specific skill focussed on making your response stand-out in positive ways as well as being compliant to the tender requirements. Failure to be compliant can quickly knock you out of the running and according to some government statistics, it happens far too often.

Tenders are a little like submitting your homework – they get scored and compared to other similar submissions. To win, you must respond to every question and in ways that are better than the others. Tricky.

Answering each question fully can be more difficult than it seems. Tender questions are usually written by someone with a good understanding of the client’s requirements but not always, so it is imperative that you really know what your client requires. ‘Fully’ means no more than is asked for except that it may include what you know they really meant to ask. Subtle.

Having a highly motivated response team that loves their specialist subjects is great but sometimes their passion gets them carried away and they write about fascinating esoteric technical features and other things that are not relevant to the client’s question nor offer any clear benefits. No matter how interesting these may be to the author, they can cause angst in the client’s reader as it’s time they don’t have and information which they are unable to score. Worse, it can distract and bore them so much that they miss the more relevant sections of your response causing your response to be marked down.

Waffle fills pages but wastes everyone’s time and obscures the tangible benefits of your offering. So write less but say more of value to your client.

Specialist response writers know the difference and can work with your subject matter experts to tailor focussed and compelling responses that meet all client expectations.

If you wish to know more – contact Mijo Tenders for some friendly advice.